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Self-efficacy…got it? Want it?

posted on July 8, 2019

What Is Self-Efficacy and Why You Need It In the Gym


When you walk up to a heavy barbell, attempting to squat a new PR do you feel like you can rise up and crush that lift or do you place it on your back, feel the heaviness you’ve never felt before and re-rack, deciding to give up in defeat? When you’re faced with a new movement or a new class or a new challenge are you the little engine that could or do you doubt your abilities? If you are the type of person to view challenges as a task to be mastered instead of feared, or the type to recover quickly from disappointments and setbacks then chances are you have a strong sense of self-efficacy.  


Self-efficacy is the belief in your own innate ability to succeed and achieve goals. It is a central concept in Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory, which examines how we learn from one another through observation, imitation and modeling.  Self-efficacy plays a role in how we determine what goals to pursue, how we go about accomplishing them and how we reflect upon our performance. Our belief in our ability to succeed is important to how we behave, how we feel about ourselves and how we feel about our place in the world (or gym).  


So what happens if you’re the type to re-rack your barbell when it gets too heavy or shy away from taking that class you’ve secretly wanted to take?  Have no fear; there are ways to build self-efficacy.  According to Bandura, there are four major sources of self-efficacy: 


  1. Mastery Experiences

Bandura describe this as the most effective way to build a strong sense of self-efficacy and it’s simple—perform a task successfully.  Want a new squat PR? Then squat lighter weight with confidence, and repeat. And don’t forget to celebrate your successes, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Write it on the PR board, gloat on social media or simply just gush to your coach about your new success or goal accomplished. 


  1. Social Modeling

Or an easier way to put it is: watch others perform a task successfully. Cue group classes—they’re a great way to get in some social modeling.  Or if the whole group fitness thing isn’t your jam, then simply look around while you’re at the gym, watch some YouTube videos or take a peak at our Instagram for some inspiration. Witnessing others similar to you succeed at something raises our belief that we possess the capability to succeed as well. 


  1. Social Persuasion

This is just a fancy way of saying, “ask for some verbal encouragement”.  Seek positive affirmations. Ask your coach for some feedback. Accepting positivity and encouragement can lead to overcoming self-doubt.


  1. Psychological Responses 

Building a strong sense of self-efficacy isn’t just about doing or performing either. It is also about how we think, feel and act towards ourselves. Our own emotional responses and reactions are important.  Learn how to minimize stress and increase positive mindsets/moods. Practice looking inwards.


Goals, if you haven’t noticed yet, are an integral part of Union Fitness.  As a staff, we regularly sit down to talk about our personal and work-related goals.  We often discuss with our members the importance of setting (and achieving) realistic targets, plans and objectives.  You see, the thing is–we don’t want to just build strong bodies at Union Fitness, we want to build strong minds and a strong sense of self too. We want you to be successful inside the gym and out too.  We want you to be able to crush goals here, but also enable you to feel like you could tackle any obstacle that comes your way outside of a squat rack too.  Your own belief in your abilities is a good predictor for how motivated you feel to continue onwards with your goals.  Self-efficacy is also important for how you feel about yourself and when push comes to shove, we want you to feel great here, there and everywhere.


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